KUWAIT CITY, Aug 7: The Kingdom of Bahrain has overcome dire consequences of the Iranian aggression and its security situation is stable, says Bahraini Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa. His Highness the Prince made the statement in an exclusive interview at Qudaibiya Palace in Manama, Bahrain recently; during which he talked about the security and economic affairs of Bahrain, as well as the Gulf crisis and current situation in other GCC countries.
He pointed out that there are isolated incidents in every active society but they do not affect the stability of the country. He also stressed the importance of maintaining the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and holding on to it, indicating that the GCC has proven its power in different stages. He added, “Bahrain is indebted to Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries for their unwavering support. We wish this cooperation continues and becomes stronger in the future.”
On the efforts exerted by the government of Bahrain to push for the development of the Kingdom, HH the Prince confirmed that the government has activated the role of the private sector in the implementation of a number of infrastructure projects and it is keen on reducing bureaucracy.
He added the government is also studying the possibility of establishing an institution which will be in charge of major projects. He highlighted several achievements in different fields such as developing the investment environment in order to attract investors.
Moreover, he praised the role of the media in raising public awareness on the challenges that the region is facing; in addition to spotlighting outstanding steps taken to confront terrorism and to protect the people. In this context, HH the Prince lauded the role of the Kuwaiti media, especially Al-Seyassah daily, on the Arab and Gulf levels; particularly the tremendous efforts exerted to highlight Gulf achievements in various fields.
This is in addition to promoting the values of unity and brotherly relations between countries with the same noble aims such as championing regional causes; thereby, proving these causes are fair. He considers Al-Seyassah daily a deep-rooted media platform that owns a high place in the Gulf and Arab arenas.
He expressed appreciation for the pioneering role and indelible marks that Al-Seyassah daily left in terms of developing journalistic work in Kuwait. He drew attention as well to the distinguished ties between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the brotherly State of Kuwait, specifically the crystal clear development of their relationship that is considered a global model of relations between countries.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Question: Your Highness, is Bahrain doing well after the period of suffering, disturbance and security breaks by mercenary groups?
Answer: The current situation is much better. Thanks to Allah, we got rid of our suffering and the groups keen on destabilizing the Kingdom. Cooperation between the constitutional institutions is stronger than before.
Coordination between the executive and legislative authorities is at its best. The legislative movement is very active, in addition to the compromise between social components, civil society organizations and all State institutions. Everybody is working in the interest of Bahrainis, especially the civil society organizations which realized where the interests of the country and its people lie. I dare say that the current situation is satisfying, better than it was a few years ago. National security is stable, but as we said before, sometimes there are isolated incidents. Nevertheless, we are not perturbed by these incidents and they happen in any active country. Thanks to Allah and the vigilance of security authorities, those keen on causing trouble have been trapped and isolated; including those who were deceived and worked according to the directives of well-known foreign bodies. Today, Bahrain is doing so well and the people no longer pay attention to a few isolated incidents. They do not pay attention to issues raised by some media outfits which have their known tendencies. Such isolated incidents no longer work as a fear-inducing machine, similar to what they did at the beginning of the crisis.
Q: Your Highness, somebody thinks that during the crisis — when there was no security; the security authority was not serious enough in tracking down and arresting those who were wreaking havoc. In other words, the security authority overlooked them.
A: This could be said in a previous stage when the image was not clear for everybody, especially since some countries were far from terrorism. At the time, some institutions were active in claiming to be defending human rights. When those countries started facing terrorism in their own territories, they realized the situation of Bahrain. They then listened to us, taking our evidence on terrorism seriously. Everybody knows that in some cases, the terrorists splashed acid as it happened in the United Kingdom. Previously, countries received reports of the so-called human rights and neutral institutions without verifying the information. They later found out that some of those institutions were penetrated by countries which serve as guardians of terrorism, doing their job in a political manner. Some institutions have strong relations with countries involved with terrorists. They worked for years to cause trouble to the international community.
Today, things are different and the image has become clear, especially after those countries experienced what we suffered in Bahrain and other Arab countries, and after the revelation of the reality about terrorist groups. The names of groups might be different, but the aim is the same — serving the interests of some countries which dream of controlling the world through terrorism. Thus, what you call slacking no longer exist in Bahrain. Draft laws have been ratified and enforced without discrimination. We work towards protecting the rights of both the State and its people. I repeat, the situation in Bahrain has changed. Thanks to Allah, we are living in natural conditions as manifested in the cooperation of different constitutional institutions. Relations between these institutions are very good and so is their relationship with citizens.
The citizens of Bahrain live in their country. This is what HH King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa feels and appreciates, because it yielded fruitful results and major achievements. Here, we have to stress that we are indebted to our brothers in Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries due to their unwavering support. We hope this cooperation lasts and becomes stronger in the future. We want to become one man with a unified position. We are praying that Allah Almighty removes the cloud from the region’s sky once unity among brothers is restored. This includes Qatar that we wish to see as we desire. And as we promised, we wish for stability of brotherly ties among all member- States. I want to repeat that some countries in the past, for peculiar reasons, were not understanding in terms of the situation in Bahrain. For instance, today we are happy with the supportive position of the new US Administration for Arab nations which are fighting terrorism. The Islamic Arab-American summit held in Riyadh in May played a significant role in this regard. The summit involved 55 Islamic Arab nations, during which several decisions were taken, particularly those concerning the global anti-terrorism strategy. GCC countries play a vital role in this regard, especially after the countries which sponsor terrorism were exposed and it became known that those countries are no longer ghosts.
Q: Your Highness, the region was distorted recently due to a series of incidents. Didn’t the leaders find these incidents stressful, so much that they were distracted from working towards national development?
A: It is true that the region witnessed many incidents, challenges and changes. However, thanks to Allah, because our countries were able to overcome those incidents in order to achieve more stability. As a case in point, I did not leave the Kingdom more than twice. The first was my traditional visit to my brother His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, which I always make a point of duty every Ramadan and it was a one-day visit. The second was a three-day private event for my granddaughter’s graduation. This was due to the developments in the region. But, I can say the problem is over, and the Kingdom now enjoys stability and calm. The danger evaporated after the victory over devils who were working in the interest of Iran. There is no longer any incident impeding daily activities, contrary to the situation at the initial stage of the crisis. Citizens understand that they have no option but to join hands in working towards maintaining national stability. We are now working to develop local and foreign investment opportunities, while increasing resilient governmental decisions to aid national economic service. This is to protect the country against any security complication, such that none of the incidents will affect it, no matter what happens.
Q: Your Highness, let us go back to the Bahraini economy. As you are aware that opportunities abound in the Kingdom, which have increased with the restoration of stability, yet you will observe these opportunities have not been fully utilized. What is your take on that?
A: I agree with you that we should market a bundle of opportunities in our country. There are numerous areas which require further activation. We are currently activating the private sector, which was affected by security concerns at the time we were clamping down on destroyers, due to its peculiarities. Nonetheless, for the past one and half a year, the growth rate has been steady along with the rate of investment. This can be confirmed by data if I show you. We need to do more in activating investments in the country, either through domestic, Gulf, Arab or foreign entrepreneurs. Despite that, we still need to promote investment in Bahrain, which is an important lung for the region alongside the two brothers — Saudi Arabia and Kuwait — including the rest of GCC countries. At this juncture, I wish to affirm there is a high level of freedom of investment in Bahrain. We want to increase the current level by encouraging domestic and foreign investors, so many infrastructure services will be under the private sector including housing. Therefore, the role of the State will be on the loan service, while the private sector will take care of funding. Many countries have been working towards this trend. Some Gulf countries have been doing it by creating more opportunities for financial institutions and the private sector in a bid to provide excellent services to citizens.
Q: Your Highness, under such circumstances, what burdens does the State shoulder until now?
A: First, directing services to the private sector will lead to the prosperity of the Bahraini community, the business community and the banks. It will generate employment opportunities for citizens and expatriates; thereby, reducing burdens of the State. This will also make people occupied with work; thus, turning away from politics. I think every country is trying to do this.
Q: What is your take on the current status of the Gulf Cooperation Council?
A: I say it with confidence and assurance that the council is here to stay and it will continue. We all have to protect it from collapse. By the way, I am one of those who call for regular meetings between leaders of GCC countries. As for the interrelationship issue, we leave it to the committees. We always work on connecting our people. When a certain situation arises, the matter is left for the leaders who meet regularly. We felt the power of the council in several incidents — during the invasion of Kuwait, Iranian aggression on the Kingdom of Bahrain, and role of Desert Shield Forces and Saudi forces in driving away the enemy. We also tested the strength of the council when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia faced the Iranian aggression through the Houthis. It is on this basis that we hope all GCC leaders understand the role of the council, even though everyone is convinced that working in isolation will not ensure security of the region. In this context, I would like to say that we are happy with what the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has given. Here, I would like to commemorate and applaud the historic role it played in organizing three summits in May when US President Donald Trump visited the Kingdom — his first foreign visit as US President. During these summits, we all agreed on fighting terrorism. We appreciate the Saudi policy and we wish the Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz all the best in his duties and the procedures he intends to take. We are also following up the activities of the young Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman whom we praise highly for his abilities which will refl ect positively on our countries especially the economic aspects.
Q: Your Highness, to what extent does the sharp decline of oil prices affect the budget of the Kingdom?
A: Since the beginning of the oil price decline crisis, we have been keen on making sure that subsidies for citizens with limited income are not affected. However, we do not deny that the crisis had negative effects, but they were very limited due to the measures we adopted; especially the economization and stopping wastage of State budget. Consequently, the financial situation of the Kingdom has remained good and it improved compared to the early days of the crisis. Here, I would like to affirm that implementation of infrastructure projects did not stop. We have completed a network of roads and bridges. We are now executing our plans without any obstacles. I also stress that the rule of law is above everyone. We are working to reduce bureaucracy. It is also possible that in the future, we will have an authority for mega projects which require exceptions. In this manner, such projects are not hindered by bureaucracy which we are trying to fix.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times